New Trier football entered the opening week of the 2023 season with revenge in mind. But the Hersey Huskies made sure that the only emotion the visiting Trevians left Arlington Heights with was frustration.
The Huskies commanded the game from start to finish, defeating New Trier 30-12 on Friday, Aug. 25. It is now the second year in a row that the Trevians’ season has started with an opening-night defeat against Hersey.
“They’re a good team, it’s a great environment, and it’s a great high school place to play,” New Trier head coach Brian Doll said. “We struggled with some of the same issues last year: we were kind of slow out of the gate and we played pretty tentatively, and I thought that’s the way we played tonight. I thought we were tentative defensively and offensively we just didn’t make plays when we needed to.”
Patrick Heneghan releases a pass in New Trier’s opener Friday, Aug. 25, at Hersey High School.
The Trevians’ disappointing night started early on when the team’s defense seemed poised to stall Hersey’s first drive of the game, but New Trier could not force the Huskies’ offense off the field.
After allowing the Huskies to gain 25 yards on their first two plays of the evening, New Trier’s defense pinned Hersey into a third-and-six situation. Several Trevians defenders appeared to have Huskies’ running back Nasir McKenzie contained well behind the first-down marker, but Hersey’s talented tailback broke free to gain eight yards and keep the chains moving.
The Trevians’ defense once again forced Hersey into another precarious spot but a facemask penalty against New Trier on third-and-long extended the Huskies drive and allowed them to score two plays later on a 17-yard run by McKenzie.
“Defensively, we had two really good chances to stop them on that first drive,” Doll said, noting that personal foul penalties and missed tackles plagued the Trevs in the early drives of the game. “ … We just can’t afford to have that happen against a good team,” he said.
Hersey added to its lead midway through the second quarter when quarterback Colton Gumino and star wideout Carson Grove connected on a 53-yard touchdown. The Huskies then jumped out to a 16-0 lead when they blocked a New Trier punt attempt and forced a safety.
McKenzie rushed home his second of three touchdowns on the night only a few minutes later to give Hersey a 23-0 lead heading into the half. The senior back tacked on a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to give the Huskies a 30-point lead.
New Trier’s first points of the season came on a safety of its own in the fourth. The Trevs scored again on the ensuing series when junior kicker Niki Dugandzic drilled a 45-yard field goal.
The Trevs added their only touchdown of the night late in the fourth when quarterback CJ Donnelly, who relieved starter Patrick Heneghan, connected with Ben Zieziula on a 32-yard score.
Ben Zieziula catches a late touchdown pass for the Trevians.
New Trier’s offense struggled to figure out Hersey’s defense all night long. The Trevs mustered only 79 yards of total offense in the first half and gained just two first downs. They finished with just under 100 total yards in the second half, but nearly half of that total came against the Huskies’ second unit.
“They played really clean defensively,” Doll said of the Huskies. “They looked like they were in midseason form. They were not making mistakes and we had some errors where we really got taken advantage of up front. … We just made some assignment mistakes up front and they got clean on us and they made plays.”
The path ahead gets no easier for the Trevs as they will head on the road again next Friday, Sept. 1, to take on Yorkville High School. The Foxes won ten games last season and made it to the final 16 in the Class 7A playoffs before bowing out against perennial powerhouse Batavia. Yorkville opened this season with a win over Plainfield South.
The Trevs are hoping to avoid the same slow start that troubled them last season when they began the campaign with three straight losses. And although Week 1 didn’t turn out as planned, expectations and hopes are still high in Northfield.
“We have a lot to grow on but I honestly think we’ll be a good football team this year and I think this was a tough opener for us,” Doll said.
New Trier could also be without two key players as linebacker Aidan Corboy and wide receiver Trey Meyers suffered injuries during the Week 1 game.
“I’m pretty bothered right now by some of the injuries, so I’m thinking about those kids and I’m hoping they’re OK, but I’m also pretty realistic that they’re injured and so that’s been a hard part to swallow for us with two really key kids for us,” Doll said.
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